Call centers in Southeast Idaho and across the country are being bombarded with phone calls with the same question, “Do I need to quarantine?” Southeast Idaho Public Health’s COVID-19 hotline has taken its share of the same question, call after call, day after day.
Tracy McColloch, the community health director for Southeast Idaho Public Health, said the COVID-19 call center is answering the same question hundreds of times a day from people wanting to know if someone should quarantine themselves. While the ultimate answer changes call to call and person to person, they all almost start with the same answer, “It depends.”
“Before getting into ‘when and who’ needs to quarantine, let’s start with the ‘why’,” she said. “Quarantine helps prevent spread of disease that can occur before a person knows they are sick or if they are infected with the virus without feeling symptoms.”
The goal of having people quarantine is to prevent infected people from inadvertently spreading the virus to others by separating themselves long enough to determine whether or not they are infected with the virus and showing symptoms.
“People in quarantine should stay home, separate themselves from others, monitor their health, and follow directions from their local public health office,” she said.
This is what counts as close contact with anyone who has tested positive for COVID-19:
- You were within 6 feet of someone who has COVID-19 for a total of 15 minutes or more
- You provided care at home to someone who is sick with COVID-19
- You had direct physical contact with the person (hugged or kissed them)
- You shared eating or drinking utensils
- They sneezed, coughed, or somehow got respiratory droplets on you
“Who needs to quarantine? People who have been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19 — excluding people who have had COVID-19 within the past three months,” McColloch said. “People who have tested positive for COVID-19 do not need to quarantine or get tested again for up to three months as long as they do not develop symptoms again.”
Those who develop symptoms of the pandemic again within three months of their first bout of COVID-19 may need to be tested again if there is no other cause identified for their symptoms.
If a person has been exposed to someone with COVID-19, here are some steps they should take:
- Stay home for 14 days after your last contact with a person who has COVID-19. You should avoid leaving your home and limit interactions with others especially people who are at higher risk for getting very sick from COVID-19.
- Monitor your health and watch for symptoms such as fever, cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, body aches, headache, new loss or taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting and diarrhea.
- Answer the call from the Southeastern Idaho Public Health’s contact tracers.
- Practice good hygiene
- Wear a cloth face covering if you must be around others.
Even if you test negative for COVID-19 or feel healthy, you should stay home (quarantine) since symptoms may appear two to 14 days after exposure to the virus.
For more information about when to quarantine, visit cdc.gov.
As always, the call center stands ready to field any questions from the community about exposure to COVID-19 and is open Monday-Friday 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. You can reach the hotline at (208) 234-5875.
For Southeast Idaho-specific information about the novel coronavirus, visit https://siphidaho.org/coronavirus.php. For Idaho-specific information about the novel coronavirus, visit https://coronavirus.idaho.gov/. Southeast Idaho Public Health also provides updates Monday-Friday at 11 am on Facebook Live at https://facebook.com/siphidaho.